A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE

By Sarah Helm

Vera Atkins swathed her own life in mystery so that even her closest family knew almost nothing of her past. This book is partly a biography and partly detective story, as Atkins travelled to Germany after the war to discover what happened to her lost female agents: Vera was a Romanian-born British intelligence officer who worked in the France Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) from 1941 to 1945. Twelve of the women she trained died in German concentration camps — some tortured, some shot, some died in the gas chambers. Vera helped prepare these women for their missions, and while she courted her own controversy during her lifetime and work, she was dedicated to finding out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines. Sarah’s book is effortless reading, it’s so well-written; she draws from official and private papers, and – with the cooperation of Vera’s relatives – vividly reconstructs an extraordinary life.

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